California has been under a state of emergency since January 2014 due to the worst drought in California’s history. With such low rainfall, grass and brush across California are tinder-dry and ready to burn. The drought has enhanced the potential severity and fire risk this season and taking proactive steps around your home is essential, but taking the time to reduce the fire risk around your home to protect your family is always safe and smart.
1. Create a 100-foot defensible space
Create a defensible space, which is a buffer, between your home & family and the grass, trees, and shrubs that surround it that will slow down the spread of the wildfire and for the protection of the firefighters defending your home.
2. Do not landscape, Xeriscape!
Xeri (Greek for “dry”) scaping is landscaping with native, drought-tolerant plants, and grasses that require little or no irrigation or maintenance. On the Water Tips and Resources page, we recommended avoiding a lawn to conserve water and money by using drought-resistant land cover. Plants that thrive in arid, desert conditions will also thrive here in California.
3. Class up your home’s roof
If you are in a high fire-prone area, which is most of California, you should invest in Class A fire-rated roof. Most modern roofs today have a Class A fire rating on them and that’s a UL test that tests the resistance of a roof system against burning embers or brands as they’re called in the industry.
4. Protect your home from fire from the inside out
Drought conditions remind us of the exterior risks, but many home fires start on the inside and spread fast once they get outside.
5. Install smoke detectors and replace the batteries
Most fatal fires occur at night. Install smoke alarms in all sleeping rooms, hallways that lead to sleeping areas, basements, and each additional level of your home or apartment. Replace the batteries when you change the clocks twice a year as daylight savings time begins and ends.
It is a simple, easy, and very important task to keep your family safe. Smoke alarms should be mounted on the ceiling 4” from the wall; wall mounts should be 4-12” from the ceiling. Do not install near draft areas (windows, vents.). Call your local fire department if you are unsure about placement.
6. Work in the yard when it is cool
Cut, mow, dig, and such around the yard when it is cool. Avoid using power equipment outdoors during the heat of the day when it is dry, hot, and windy. This can increase the risk of sparking a fire. Use power equipment early in the morning, before 10 a.m. And use equipment with a spark arrestor installed.
7. Remove, reduce, and replace foliage around the house
Remove all dead plants, trees, and shrubs from as close to your home. If possible, your entire property. Reduce excess leaves, plant parts, and low-hanging branches by trimming and placing the trimmings in a waste pile away from your home. Replace dense flammable plants with fire-resistant plants close to your home. Plants should be no less than 3 feet from a structure, well watered, and maintained.
8. Clear your roof and gutters of debris
Trees drop leaves, branches, pinecones, and other debris onto your roof and they accumulate mostly in the valleys of your roof. If you can, you should avoid going onto your roof by yourself, or at all and hire a professional to clear your roof of fire hazard debris.
A huge fire risk to your home is having open-top gutters that accumulate debris and dry — those wire-mesh screens advertised as gutter cleaning time savers are no better than not having them at all.The best option for keeping your gutters free of debris and not having to clean them yourself or pay some one to do it.